May 28, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
After all the waiting, Tuesday started off quite nicely for the Georgia Tech golf team, which rang up eight combined birdies over the first four holes on day one of the NCAA championships.
Given recent angst, that was critical.
Sophomore Ollie Schniederjans rang up birdies on Nos. 10, 11, 12 and 13 to start (the Yellow Jackets went off on the back side) – even though he was more nervous than usual.
The Jackets finished at 274 to trail only No. 38 Arizona State (10-under par 270), which was buoyed more than a little by the nine-under par 61 fired by freshman Jon Rahm.
Turns out, there’s something different about playing at “home” when you’re staying in a hotel. The Capital City Club’s Crabapple course had a funny – but quite nice – feel as the Jackets came to rest four strokes in arrears of upstart Arizona State despite three of four scoring golfers bogeying the final hole (No. 9).
“It’s weird, but it’s awesome,” Schniederjans said after his 67 left him tied with three others for fourth place. “My friends came out today and watched me play the first few holes. That was pretty cool. I was super nervous on the first tee. To feel like that and then birdie the first hole…”
And the next, and the next, and the next.
Schniederjans and coach Bruce Heppler both suggested that if Ollie had putted a little better, he might have been one to fire that 61,
As it was, Anders Albertson, Seth Reeves and Shun Yat Hak all carded 69s for Tech so there was some solid golfing among the Jackets. Even though they started in the afternoon, when the greens were a bit faster and not as likely to hold approach shots, Tech is in a good spot.
“We played well. I don’t think it was as low as we could’ve shot, but we hit it really, really well,” Heppler said after walking with Albertson. “You’ve waited and waited and waited, and if you get behind the 8-ball . . . I think sometimes the first [round] is harder than the last one because you have to wait and wait and wait.
“If you can get off the a good start, then all of a sudden maybe you’re thinking this isn’t that big a deal. I think the start is pretty critical in winning a national championship.”
The Jackets have finished runner-up in this thing four times. Today, they’ll resume their quest to end that streak.
“Every team playing in the national championship is going to feel pressure, but compared to what we just went through in the regionals, it’s just exciting,” Schniederjans said. “We’re familiar with this place. We just came off the biggest nail-biter that we’ve played in college golf so . . . “